BB operators bend over backwards for guests’ needs

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 24, 2001

A visitor can get a room for the night almost anywhere, but bed and breakfast owners say it’s the little things – in addition to the incredible houses and furnishings – that make their businesses stand out from the crowd.

Just ask Monmouth Plantation’s Regina Charboneau.

She recalls a group of guests who held a meeting at Monmouth and had an craving for hamburgers.

And while the luxury hotel and restaurant does not usually serve burgers, the kitchen staff made an exception because of the request.

“That’s the hospitality of not saying ‘no,'” said the general manager and ches de cuisane of Monmouth Plantation.

The guests loved the hamburgers and even asked the staff to serve the same meal when they come back for another visit, Charboneau said.

Another satisfied visitor.

Like Monmouth, many bed and breakfasts in Natchez, big and small, specialize in personal attention and in making their guests feel at home.

Charboneau says it’s all about hospitality, a character trait that begins with Monmouth Plantation owners, Ron and Lani Riches, and is passed down to the staff.

“(The Riches) just constantly go out of their way and through example they have created a staff that act like they do,” Charboneau said.

Monmouth Plantation staff always try to grant the requests of their guests.

One day, Charboneau said she personally helped one guest who was having some problems with his computer.

The staff has also been known to do such things as arrange vehicle repairs and provide transportation, Charboneau added.

“The guests always come first,” she said. “We’re here for one purpose only and that’s our guests.”

Monmouth Plantation is ranked fourth in luxury hotels by Conde Nast Traveler.

But in addition to antebellum decorations and fancy sheets and towels, Southern hospitality, like that found in Natchez, is equally as important, Charboneau said.

“The food can be good and the furniture can be gorgeous but that true genuine Southern hospitality is unique to Natchez,” Charboneau said.

Mary Ann Henderson, the owner of Mary Magnolia’s Bed and Breakfast, tries to offer the same personal attention at her house on Madison Street.

“I think it’s the personal touch and the at home feeling that makes them want to stay here as opposed to a big hotel,” Henderson said. “I think it takes a certain personality to make them feel at home.”

Since its recent opening, the house has become a popular honeymoon spot for local couples.

So Henderson said she is trying to cater to that crowd. For example, she will often personalize wine glasses in the bride and groom’s names for them to keep as souvenirs.

Henderson has also taken the time to draw up walking or running paths for her guests or driven Under-the-Hill to pick them up if they decide they are too tired to walk back to the bed and breakfast.

“That’s the special little treatment I try to give them,” Henderson said.

Thom E. Miller, proprietor, and Shawyn A. Mars, owner, of the Guest House Historic Inn, say a big selling point for their bed and breakfast is its downtown location.

By staying at the Guest House Historic Inn “you have the same type accommodations” as you do at a larger hotel “but you’re downtown so you can walk,” Mars said.

And the inn is right in the middle of the historic district, he said.

Because many Natchez guests dream of spending the night in an antebellum house, Mars and Miller try to recreate that atmosphere for them.

After a 1998 storm damaged the building, the business partners decided to redecorate in more of an antebellum style.

“We wanted to offer the tourist a chance to stay in a place like that,” Mars said.

Since the Guest House Historic Inn is a medium-sized bed and breakfast, guests can have the best of both worlds.

They can have all the personal attention that comes with a bed and breakfast while having the extra privacy a larger hotel provides, Mars and Miller said.

For example, guests do not feel as if they are staying in a room next door to the owner of the inn.

“Even though we do have that hotel feel … we try to run it like a house,” Miller said.

Mars and Miller and other local bed and breakfast owners also provide guests with directions, inform them of events taking place in town or make dinner reservations for them.

“Those are things that don’t cost us anything,” Mars said. “Those are things we enjoy doing.”